Flash Report: Fourth meeting of the Public Health Expert Group (PHEG)

The fourth meeting of the Public Health Expert Group (PHEG) took place on 19 and 20 June 2024. It was chaired by DG SANTE and attended by the representatives of 17 Member States, Norway and Iceland, together with the Directorate-General for Structural Reform Support (DG REFORM), the European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Health and Digital Executive Agency (HaDEA), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Progress made by the subgroups
DG SANTE presented the work of the subgroups (cancer, mental health, prevention of non- communicable diseases (NCDs) and vaccination) under the PHEG, and of the Network of Expertise on long COVID. The PHEG approved the prolongation of the vaccination subgroup’s mandate by 18 months. The PHEG supported the launch of a call for best and promising practices on prevention, mapping of prevention policies and updating the Healthier Together guidance document by including new focus on lifelong prevention.

Support by international organisations
The OECD informed on the ongoing and upcoming public health projects co-funded under the EU4Health Programme, including an analysis to gauge the economic impact of mental ill-health over the period 2023-2050. WHO presented the progress of its collaboration with DG SANTE in supporting capacity building in the Member States, Norway, and Iceland, as well as the collaboration in the area of NCDs and determinants of health. UNICEF presented the objectives of its new cooperation with DG SANTE to support children’s health. The PHEG welcomed the initiatives with these organisations, praising the efforts to prepare convergent workstreams that result in useful tools for the countries and in a reinforced collaboration towards the same goals.

Policy priorities and policy coordination
PHEG discussed possible mechanisms to improve policy coordination through available tools and via collaboration in clusters of Member States on specific actions in the next 3-5 years. The Member States supported this innovative collaborative approach in general. They suggested looking at ways to strengthen health-in-all-policies and explore innovative approaches, such as strategic foresight, and creating common narratives on public health. DG SANTE will send a proposal of key areas to be considered to the Member States for feedback. The PHEG confirmed its support for a horizontal, non- disease-specific approach to life long prevention of NCDs as an efficient and sustainable way to address NCDs.